July 15, 2013
On Sunday 14 July, the British Labour Party chose Tulip Siddiq, a British Bangladeshi to fight for the constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn at the 2015 General Election. On the surface, such a decision is to be applauded. The Labour Party is to send a second Bangladeshi, and a woman to boot, to the mother of all Parliaments.
What’s not to like?
Well, the trouble is, as The Khichuri reported a few months ago, Tulip Siddiq happens to be the niece of Bangladesh’s top autocrat and human right abuser, Sheilkh Hasina Wajed. Under her leadership, Bangladesh’s human rights record has deteriorated drastically and she is on course to taking the country into a one party state, just like her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Now, we must underline again here and now that no person must be judged by the actions of their relatives. Tulip Siddiq is as far as we can see, innocent of the crimes committed by her aunt or her mother, who are key movers in the ruling Awami League.
Nonetheless, Tulip Siddiq has serious questions to answer because she has publicly associated herself with her political family and, by extension, the Bangladeshi regime. And all of this while serving as a Labour councillor.
The most serious case Ms Siddiq has to answer is her journey to Moscow, earlier in the year, accompanying her mother and aunt on a state visit there. Here is Ms Siddiq posing for the cameras with her aunt and Russia’s strongman, Vladimir Putin. As the photo shows, it was quite a family affair, reflecting the dynastic politics of Bangladesh.
So, the first question Tulip Siddiq needs to answer is: what exactly was she doing in Moscow?
We know what her aunt Sheikh Hasina was doing: discussing an arms loan deals and Russian assistance on nuclear issues.
We can also hypothesise that Mr Putin was offering advice and possibly support for Sheikh Hasina and her plans to secure and control Bangladesh for her party.
Let us not forget that Sheikh Hasina’s ruling Awami League has thrown opposition party members in prison, waged a deadly war against garments sector activists like Aminul Islam, closed down opposition media and has used, to brutal effect, state apparatus and party cadres to suppress dissent. The most recent and bloody case being the Dhaka massacre of 6 May where between 50 and 100s of unarmed protesters were killed by forces sworn to protect them. The justification Sheikh Hasina used, while trying to mask the bloodbath, was that the protestors were ‘Islamists’.
Well, that’s alright then.
The same arguments are used by Mr Putin as he valiantly supports the butcher of Damascus, Bashar al-Assad. One suspects Vladimir Putin supports Sheikh Hasina in this regard because she, like Assad, is the supposed iron fist against mythical (but now actualised) Islamist bogeymen.
So we ask the question again, what exactly was the Labour Party’s candidate doing as she posed for photographs in this summit of autocrats?
And where does Ms Siddiq stand on the litany of human rights abuses and corruption allegations levelled at her family’s door?
Does she continue to campaign on behalf of her family’s party, as she did in Washington D.C. back in 2008?
Ms Siddiq herself used the Islamist bogeyman when she her claims she campaigned for her family party in January 2009.
She said then: “People in Bangladesh voted positively, for democracy and tolerance and against extremism and ‘old politics.’ Women, students and young people, often first time voters, voted in masses to keep extremist politico-religious parties, like Jaamat-e-Islami, out of office.”
That was in 2009, and while we hold no special sympathy for that aforementioned party; we do know that in the name of keeping out ‘extremist politico-religious parties’, the ruling Awami League regime has thrown their leaders into prison, closed down their media and have generally harassed the party, along with their more secular opposition partners and any who stand to defend their rights as citizens.
She speaks of getting rid of old politics, yet in the last five years, the Awami League has been beset by scandal after sordid scandal.
Since she so publicly associates herself with the family, these are valid questions to ask.
Last Friday, the local newspaper ‘Ham & High’ reported on an alleged smear campaign against Tulip Siddiq where an email relating to Siddiq and her family’s involvement in political life in Bangladesh was sent to every Camden councillor except Siddiq. We do not know the contents of the email or what was alleged. If there were smears, it would be unfortunate: not only is it wrong to smear, but it also let’s Tulip Siddiq off the hook in not answering these very serious questions.
Where does she sit, for example, on a recent law passed by her family party that granted Siddiq’s family round-the-clock protection at tax-payer expense, for life? Of course, the state should be granting protection to all its citizens, especially in a country rife with daily incidences of retribution and political violence.
Ms Siddiq’s selection also raises serious questions for the Labour Party. In a week when the Labour Party is at war with the unions, where Ed Miliband is bidding to limit their influence, one needs to ask what hold does the authoritarian and dynastic Awami League possess where it can parachute one of their own into UK politics.
Let us not forget that the party has been adept at raising the Islamist bogeyman to pursue their murderous politics in Bangladesh. They did the same in the Tower Hamlets Labour Party for the last 10 years, raising the spectre of Islamist infiltration to get rid of local party personalities they did not like.
The most celebrated of these is the case of Lutfur Rahman, the current independent Mayor of Tower Hamlets who was booted out of the Labour Party after a witch hunt pursued by the Sunday Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan.
For years Andrew Gilligan has pushed the line that Lutfur Rahman, also a British Bangladeshi, is some sort of Islamist plant from the same evil Jamaat-e-Islami that Tulip Siddiq mentioned, infiltrating the Labour Party in the same way Trotskyist militants used to in the 1980s. Leaked emails from Bangladesh reveal that this same Andrew Gilligan was flown over to Bangladesh by the Awami regime last regime.
Now that Tulip Siddiq has been installed in Hampstead and Kilburn, we are all entitled to ask: is Bangladesh’s Awami League regime infiltrating the UK’s Labour Party? As the links between the Labour party and autocratic leaders of the ex-colonial world become more apparent, from the notorious Pakistani MQM leader Altaf Hussain, Libya’s Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and even the leaders of Egypt’s recent military coup, a disturbing pattern emerges.
Above Photo: British politician Tulip Siddiq (l) pictured beside her aunt Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Russian President Vladmir Putin in Moscow this January as the two governments inked a deal on weapons and nuclear technology. Sheikh Rehana stands second from right.